Orioles observations on more homers from Adley Rutschman and Heston Kjerstad, open bullpen spots, injury updates and more

Anything Adley Rutschman can do Heston Kjerstad can do better.

Sure, that’s obviously not always true, but it was at the beginning of the Orioles’ exhibition game Sunday. One inning after Rutschman hit a two-run homer that narrowly cleared the center field wall, Kjerstad blasted a two-run long ball that surpassed the fence by so much that Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Jack Suwinski barely moved.

“It’s really fun to watch him right now,” manager Brandon Hyde said about Kjerstad. “How hard he can hit the baseball, it’s loud coming off his bat.”

The young sluggers are both having superb springs. Rutschman, who went 2-for-4 Sunday, is hitting .303 with three home runs and eight RBIs, while Kjerstad has a 1.254 OPS with four homers and eight RBIs.

The success is no surprise for Rutschman, who was one of the Orioles’ best players in 2022 and the American League Rookie of the Year runner-up. Kjerstad, however, is playing in his first big league camp. The 2020 first-round pick didn’t play in the minor leagues until 2022 after dealing with heart and hamstring ailments.

“Coming back to start a year, just kind of pick up where I left off and continue the same approach I had in the fall league,” said Kjerstad, who won the 2022 Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player. “Just keep showing up every day and working hard.”

Kyle Gibson, Rutschman’s batterymate in the 8-0 win against the Pirates, continued his sharp spring with seven strikeouts in five scoreless innings. The veteran right-hander has allowed just two runs in 14 spring innings.

“That was probably about as good as my stuff’s felt maybe in a long time,” Gibson said. The best changeup I’ve had — I don’t know, I’d have to go back and watch the tape to see when it felt that good.”

Sunday was the Orioles’ final split-squad doubleheader of the spring. In the road portion against the New York Yankees, Tyler Wells wasn’t as efficient as Gibson but still had his best start of camp. He allowed five hits and one run in 3 2/3 innings against a New York Yankees lineup mostly filled with starters. Catcher Anthony Bemboom hit a three-run home run off Gerrit Cole to power Baltimore to a 5-3 victory.

Bullpen spots

Some of the competitions in camp, like the one for the starting rotation, have clear favorites. Others, like for the final few seats in the bullpen, are wide-open.

Hyde estimated Saturday that the club has three open bullpen spots for the dozen pitchers competing to be in the big league bullpen.

“We could go so many different directions,” Hyde said. “I think that there’s a handful of guys that pencil into being in the pen right now, but there’s still a lot of question marks still after that.”

Those question marks include: left-handers Keegan Akin, Darwinzon Hernández, Nick Vespi and DL Hall; starting pitchers Spenser Watkins, Austin Voth and Tyler Wells; right-handers Joey Krehbiel, Reed Garrett, Logan Gillaspie, Eduard Bazardo and Mike Baumann; and Rule 5 draft …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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